For passengers of London Bridge on the morning of 31st May 2019, a Supermarine surprise which appeared in the station concourse overnight. The surprise was a full scale replica Spitfire.
In order to create this installation Network Rail has teamed up with the Imperial War Museums (IWM). It will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings which occurred in World War Two. The replica is usually on display at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire and will be housed in London Bridge’s vast, airstrip-esque concourse until the 9 June 2019.
London Bridge station was chosen for the display partly thanks to its proximity to HMS Belfast, the Second World War cruiser and one of the first warships to fire on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in support of the Canadian and British troops on Juno Beach, opening fire at 5:27 am on 6 June 1944.
Both before and after D-Day, The Southern Railway, as the operator of the railway through London Bridge was then known, made an immense contribution to the war effort. From the crucial evacuation of civilians away London to moving the masses of troops returning from Dunkirk back to inland, the railway played a vital part in Britain’s military support chain.
Despite incurring heavy bomb damage, The Southern Railway maintained a civilian passenger service which continued through blackouts.
A dockyard at Southampton owned by The Southern Railway prior to the outbreak of the Second World War was also used extensively to ship large quantities of military freight and personnel over the course of the conflict and was especially busy around the time of D-Day.
Over two and a half million British and American service personnel passed through the dockyards at Southampton from D-Day to VE Day.
IWM is marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings by retelling the extraordinary land, air and sea story through its Second World War collection. Along with its three historic sites: HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and Churchill War Rooms.
As part of these events, IWM will be distributing a free limited-edition newspaper, full of facts and stories about D-Day, throughout the week at London Bridge and Waterloo stations. There will also be a small digital exhibition showing clips about D-Day on screens at both stations.
What did the officials have to say?
Ian Hanson, stations director for Network Rail’s South East route, said:
“We’re so excited to have a full-scale replica Spitfire on display in London Bridge’s huge concourse on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
“The railway played a vital role during the Second World War, including transporting troops and equipment to the front lines ready for the D-Day operations. It’s fantastic to be able to help Imperial War Museums mark this important anniversary by hosting this Spitfire and a great surprise which we’re sure will thrill our passengers too.”
John Delaney, Head of Second World War, Imperial War Museums, added:
“It is such a thrill to display our replica Spitfire in the public space of London Bridge station. This is an unprecedented and unique way to mark 75 years since D-Day and share our historic collection from IWM Duxford with a new audience.
“It is particularly fitting that the aircraft is so near to HMS Belfast, which played a significant role on D-Day, highlighting the air and sea-borne elements of the invasion to liberate Europe.”